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How can you increase your resilience? You may not believe that a book called You Are Awesome would provide insight, but as it turns out, author Neil Pasricha has a great deal to share on the topic, and the book is one of my favorites this year. This week, we discuss the importance of accessibility and “flippibility” in academic writing and reading, the importance of having an “untouchable” day, and a practical exercise you can do each morning to strengthen your mind.
Book: You Are Awesome
Bio: Neil Pasricha thinks, writes, and speaks about intentional living. He is the New York Times bestselling author of five books, including The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation, which together have spent over 200 weeks on bestseller lists and have sold over 1,000,000 copies. He hosts the award-winning podcast 3 Books where he’s on a fifteen-year-long quest to uncover the thousand most formative books in the world. He gives over fifty speeches a year, appearing for audiences at TED, SXSW, and Google. He has degrees from Queen’s University and Harvard Business School. He lives in Toronto with his wife and three sons.
This transcript is unedited.
Peter: With us today is Neil Pasricha, he thinks, writes and speaks about intentional living. He’s a New York times bestselling author of six books, including the book of awesome and the happiness equation, which has spent over 200 weeks on bestseller lists and have sold over a million copies. He hosts the award winning podcast three books, which is where I actually discovered him. He was podcasting our agent. He has the same agent that I do and I really loved the podcast and I wanted to look more into him and I got to say I, when I first looked at the book, before I even looked at the book and I just saw that it was, you know, called you are awesome. I paused for a second. It was not a book that I thought, Oh, I’m going to really enjoy this. I thought it was going to be trite.
Peter: I thought it was going to be sort of, you know, full of sort of vacuous motivational tripes and and I was blown away. This is my favorite book of the year. I, and I’ve read, you know, at least a hundred books this year and I have to say it, it, it was easy to read. It was interesting. It’s well written and Neil draws you into his stories. It’s, it both has common sense. So you would think, okay, I know this and yet I left feeling like I learned a tremendous number of things that most importantly I actually integrated into my life. So it was, you know, more than once since I’ve read that book, I find myself talking to someone and thinking, Oh, you should read this book or telling them, you know, you should get this book because I think it’ll help you in some of the challenges that you’re facing right now. It’s my pleasure to, to actually get to know Neil in this conversation and to share him with you and to share the book with you. The book is, you are awesome. How to navigate, change, wrestle with failure, and live an intentional life. Neil, welcome to the Bregman leadership podcast.
Neil: Thank you so much Peter for the invitation and the generous introduction and for surprising me to tell me that this is also shooting video. And I now feel like I’m wearing a hoodie with a super shiny forehead and my basement. And you’re so, you’re so spiffing clean. You’ve got this great haircut and nice glasses. Your apartment looks like you got this great couch. So I feel like, I feel like you’re just like hanging out with a slob. No, first of all, that’s kind of, that’s actually me. This is clearly the way I live because you get the no, no ended version of today.
Peter: Well, so first of all, you have an awesome picture behind you. And second of all, you look like every tech CEO I ever talked to. So, you know, the truth is, you know, you’re just authentic. You’re like, you think I’m in a basement? I’m actually in an office in Silicon Valley, you know, overlooking the Pacific Palisades. I don’t know if those two things work. But, but
Neil: By the way, I gave a speech to a, a mental health charity and the present I received on stage was this image, which I love because it kind of, you know, it’s a woman and you can’t see her eyes or her face, but there’s a bunch of complicated, beautiful butterflies flying over her. And there is something metaphoric about mental health reflected in that painting or that picture. I like it a lot. Well thanks so much for having me. And what a juicy compliment from a guy who reads a hundred books a year saying this is the best book he read. I mean, I got a slap that on the back of the book.
Peter: Yeah, you’re, you’re welcome to. I really I was touched by it. I thought it was great. And I was just in a conversation, a coaching conversation with a client yesterday and I said, you know, you’ve got to read this book and, and for the situation that he was facing. So I, I really would like to do my part in getting this out there because I think it’s awesome
Neil: For spending time watching or listening. I just want to add something else to this, Peter, because you did something that no one has ever done, which is you had my contact information cause we’re about to talk. But yeah, we’ve never talked before and I checked my phone on the weekend and there’s a voicemail from a number, I don’t know. So I’m like, Hm, I wonder what it is. Is it like a, you know, my, my telecom company and it’s you introducing yourself after you got up your flight after reading my book and leaving me like a generous like two and a half minute, like oral review of my thoughts from a guy who had never talked to before. I just thought that was such a genuine, genuine, generous way to live and I’m going to adopt that. Like lead people that you don’t know very well. Thoughtful voicemails. I like that cause voicemails are always garbage. So if you can do that, it’s like you really stand out.
Peter: That’s interesting. And thank you for mentioning it because now it’s like that this is typical of your, of your writing and your, you know, like, cause I just did it but I wasn’t thinking about doing it. I was like, wow, I love this book. I got to tell Neil and and now that I think about it, I’d like to do that more, you know, because it’s it’s, you know, it’s kind of pointing out something that, that actually can affect my behavior. But I will do that more. But thank you for, for I’m glad that you enjoyed getting that voicemail and I enjoyed leaving it. You’re welcome.
Neil: Well, voicemail is good. Voicemail is becoming like good real mail. It’s like becoming gold,
Peter: Right? It’s true. And people don’t call so much anymore also. So you sort of stand out a little, you know, I get a hundred emails, but how many calls do I get before we jump into the book? We were just having conversation that I wanted to have on air because the book feels like it’s effortlessly written. Like you just sat down one day and you had an inspiration and you were, you know, focused on some issues you were facing in your life and you were working it through and you start from finish and a couple of hours later you’re done writing your book and it gets published four weeks later. That was not your process.
Neil: No, and I shouldn’t mention that. As a child, I was taught to love books that were deeply accessible. My elementary school library introduced me to a book called sideways stories from wayside school by Lewis Satcher, S. I. C. H. E. R. I was blown away. So I started falling into like mad magazine, Archie comics and I started loving reading. No one ever judged me. None of them said, you reading the wrong thing no matter it said you should. Got to read Laura Ingalls Wilder, you know, read something good or something. No one, no one ever said it to me. So I just loved reading over time. That was hammered out of me as an adult when I was told what to read and you know, college and university and stuff. And then as an adult today, as a writer, I always aspire towards making my writing, as you said, simple, clear, accessible.
Neil: The best compliment I can get is my 28 year old son never reads books, but he loves yours or we leave it on the back of the toilet because everyone in our family likes to flip through it or I can’t believe it. I read your book in two days and it usually takes me three months to read a book. That’s all purposeful and yes, Peter takes a tremendous amount of edits because like one whole edit is just removing semi-colons and another whole editor is saying like, these are $10 words. I want $2 words. Another whole edit is saying like, can we, can we chop, can we look through the whole book and make the, make all the chapters shorter so that the flip ability is big. And then I also do tests where I get the draft of the book and I flipped through it over and over again and I’m like, there’s too much text here.
Neil: Like there’s like a 30 page chunk where just texts, I need to lighten this up a bit. I need to have some cartoons that bring this to life or I need to have a visual that pops you a little bit sideways. Stephen King very famously said that when he looked at people in bookstores and they were doing like the the flip ability test, do you know when somebody in the books or picks up a book and they’re like, just like, just like, you know, flip through it in like two seconds, like a, you know, here on, since I have the video I can just be like, Oh, you’re like, what are they doing? Well, if they’re doing your thing, deciding it’s like how big is the font? How big are their margins? How dense is this book? Does it breathe? Does it have air? I want my books to have air. I want them to breathe. I want them to be effortlessly read the way they are perceived to be effortlessly written. But no, there are seven edits written because it takes a long time to look effortless.
Peter: That’s great. And, and it, it is interesting. It does make me wonder because I read a lot of books by academics who, who I love actually. I love, I love speaking with and, and, and, and reading the work of academics and you get all this really great, interesting research and, and, and actually what I find for most academics that I read that they’re very particular about what they know and what they don’t know. And I really appreciate that. Like they’ll say, you know, I, I know I can answer that question because I know about X, Y, and Z, but I haven’t researched, you know, a B that you’re asking me about. So I can’t really, you know, I mean, I could guess, but I can’t really speak to that. And there’s something I really love. You know, maybe it’s like the academic in me, but there’s something I really love about that specificity and clarity and discernment and yet it doesn’t necessarily make a book, right?
Peter: It doesn’t make it easy to read. Like there’s a lot of information and I think there’s a requirement in an academic environment, even if you’re writing a popular book to be taken seriously. Like there are people who haven’t, who I know who I really like. If I’m friends with who, who have, and you know I had like 21 blurbs on my last book or 30 blurbs, I can’t, I don’t even know how many, but I got a lot of blurbs from really great people. But I have certain friends of mine who are academics who would not blur my book. And the reason they wouldn’t blurb my book is because they said, you know, they didn’t really say this, but this was my understanding is like I’m in an academic environment. I only want to blurb a book with like, you know, with like a whole bunch of notes at the end that, you know, really show deep research. But that doesn’t, yeah.
Neil: Is this makes me so mad. This is people proffering up a bunch of hot air trying to sound smart. You know, who’s smart? None of us. None of us really knows what the universe is. None of us knows why we’re here. None of us knows what happens after this or before. None of us can even absorb a tiny, minuscule percentage of it. Everything available on earth, not its information, not its people, not it’s knowledge, it’s wisdom, not it’s art and nothing. If you don’t live in a permanent state of awe of how, wow, like I, I’m conscious here, I get to like, I can pick up a leaf. Like I, I, this is my first book, the book of Austin. It’s like if you can’t live in that state, then that’s where we need to help you get to. And so all these bone dry books have thick, thick notes and all that stuff.
Neil: Toss them in the fire. No, no one’s reading them anyway. I know a lot of academics, a lot of academics I think have a great voice and if you have a great voice, then we will read your book. Carol Dweck wrote mindset as that book has a great voice in it knocking. Wow, Whoa, that’s a great reading voice. He’s pretty academic. I’d say certainly a lot more than me. Right. So Adam Grant, you know Dan pink, like there’s people out there that can live in that world and translate it into accessibility. And I know, I don’t mean to be so hard on it. I just, I don’t like this sake. I just, I sense what you sense. A lot of books use big words for the sake of it and it’s just, I’m tired of it. I just, I, that’s, that’s what got me that. That’s what lost my love of reading when I was in college and university being forced to read thick, serious tomes, the because they were weighty and important. You can communicate that stuff in a simple manner. Look at Richard Fineman stuff. The guys, the ones, the Nobel prize of physics in his book, cheerleader, jokey, mr Fineman is super accessible. So actually it’s amazing if you have super intelligence and you can translate stuff simply, that’s the ultimate market intelligence.
Peter: I love it. I love it. And Neil, you talk about, I mean, what you just said I think is so important that I want to reiterate it, that we don’t know anything. Like we don’t know anything. And so, and, and research actually in many ways doesn’t tell us anything like it. It’s, it’s so, you know, like you find like just look at nutrition research and you know, you could look at all of the data and, and everything’s telling you contradictory things and you know, like you could parse it out and you can kind of figure, you know, some things like, you know, probably if you, you on a very, very basic level, if you eat too much and you don’t exercise enough, you’re going to gain weight. Right?
Neil: And look at the most popular nutrition writer, Michael Poland eat food too much. Mostly plants
Peter: Eat real food, right? Yeah. Right, right, right. So, but I, but I, I think that, I think, I think that that mindset really needs to be brought into all of this work, which is like, we have experiences and those experiences can bring some wisdom and you every reader, it’s like the, the sort of Buddhist view, which is don’t take what I’m telling you at face value. Try it. And if it works for you, great. And if it doesn’t work for you, throw it out. Like, but don’t, I don’t need to convince you of anything.
Neil: I love the Seinfeld, Lil Tony.
Peter: I’m in New York too. What can I say?
Neil: That’s great. I sounded so I get that sometimes too with the way I talk. So I totally agree. Cool. So now that, now that we’ve trashed most of our, our of our appears
Peter: And I love them, I really love, I have very nice conversations with them too. Okay. Let’s start with, because I think everything starts here. And I’ve actually used this story in my writing and I think it’s a great story. The farmer and the horse story.
Neil: Hmm. Huh. So like all good books. My book begins with the work of somebody else and they opened with an old Dow was fable called the farmer with one horse. The table essentially goes like this. One day a farmer had a horse and his horse ran away and his neighbor said, Oh, you must be so sad. And he said, we’ll see. The next day the horse ran back with 20 wild horses following it. The farmer Edison corralled all 21 horses and the neighbors must all said, wow, you must be so excited. He’s like, well, we’ll see. The next day one of the wild horses kicked the Manson broke breaking both of his legs and all the neighbors said, well, you must be so disappointed. He’s like, well, we’ll see the next day. And this is the word the, the fable goes. Every able bodied man is called to war and everyone dies in the war.
Neil: But the farmer son is spared because he had broken legs and the neighbor said, Oh, you’re so lucky. You know, you must be so happy. And then he’s like, we’ll save the point of the story. And that why you use it to open you are awesome. A book about resilience is because I want to teach people how do we get more like of that where everything that happens to us is not something about who we are, but simply where we are. That’s a huge little jump, but it’s important if you don’t, if you get fired from your job, if you kicked out of your marriage, if you don’t get on the bestseller list, you know, whatever happens in our worlds here that’s okay. All you can do is navigate forward from that. The muscles you use inside yourself are what I label resilience.
Neil: And this is a muscle that most of us have atrophied because we live in Mister, we live in super abundance, awesome world with gold stars and participation, ribbons and pats on the head. And none of my friends are getting forcibly shipped off to war right now and no one I know is living through a plague at the moment. So we have to have it pretty good. As a result, we no longer have the tools to handle a horse kicking our son in the legs. We no longer have the tools to handle losing the asset you have or the resource you have. We no longer have resilience. You are awesome as a bug all about teaching us how to build back this missing skill for the modern world which is going to tell us that we suck over and over again
Peter: And you, you know you said it’s it, it, you know the question is when you, where you are but it’s also this sort of question of when you are like when I think of dot, dot, dot. It’s sort of when you are, it’s like you’re like at any point in time what you’re talking about is at any point in time is just a point in time and we always look at where we are currently or when we are currently, like this moment in time we look at as the finality and everything else is behind us leading up to this moment. But in reality, there’s another moment it’s leading up to, and we just don’t know what that moment is
Neil: Exactly. There’s a really famous study that Daniel Gilbert did at Harvard university with a couple of his peers. He’s an author, famous for writing, stumbling on happiness, another academic book written in a great accessible voice called the end of history. Illusion, right? So Peter, you know the study, basically they asked 19,000 people from age 20 to 70. Hey, what would the last 10 years of your life like? And everybody said, Oh, it was super tumultuous. It was tempestuous. It was, I broke up with Jim and then I started dating Rajeev, and then I started dating Sydney. We moved three times. I got fired. Remember she got fired. Whoa, what a crazy decade. And then they say, Oh, okay, what’s the next 10 years of your life gonna look like? And everyone sort of like, I can summarize answers this way. I’m definitely going to still be living here. Certainly not going to change my job. My marriage is very settled, we’re good.
Neil: And the point of the study is that we have a human issue in our brains. We think that history and today, which might not be a problem if you’re flying high or coasting or doing super well, but when you get fired, when you lose a job, when you lose a relationship, you think, and I and I, this was part of my job at Walmart, Peter, I would help managers, fire employees. This is a side role. I had a in the that wasn’t the hatch them and I was helping provide empathy in the room when I was in HR and whenever I would help someone like carry their stuff to their trunk and like the freezing cold winter in the Walmart parking lot, they’d always say to me, how did this ever happen? What am I going to do now? I’ll never find anything else.
Neil: Periods at the ends of the sentence. To your point about the dot, dot. Dot. Whenever I bump into the same people five years later, it’s a small industry, retail in Canada, they’d always say the exact same thing. Guess what? It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I started that business I’d been dreaming about. I spent time with my daughter after her miscarriage, I went to Peru and visited my inlaws like what? We all have a human tendency to think today is the end and to, what’s that word? Like we make it worse than it actually is, right? We catastrophe or size or something like that. I think I got the word wrong. Catastrophize for five exacerbates. Thank you. Yeah, sometimes I do need the big words
Peter: And, and yeah, no, I mean I, I think that’s what we do. And I guess part of my question, which you talk about in the book is how do we get out of that? But on two sides, like there’s a way in which I could see myself doing this. I want to accumulate things. I want enough insurance. I want to, you know, solidify my relationship and aspects of my life and my money so that when those things happen, because I know that they will happen or I hope they don’t, but they might, then I want to be protected from them. And we could, you know, that’s just another flip side of that coin, which is, you know, the fear of the, the horse kicking the leg and like trying to buffer ourselves from that. How do we get out of that mindset?
Neil: So there’s an old fable, another fable that I share in the happiness equation, my previous book, and it’s about Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller going to a party on shelter Island for the home of some like billionaire hedge fund. Do you know this story? No. Okay.
Peter: I know the too, I mean, I don’t know them personally obviously, but I know the two people wrote this,
Neil: Wrote this little tale in the new Yorker after Joseph Heller, author of Catchpoint’s who passed away and carbonic says, he said to Joseph Heller. So Joe, how do you feel about the fact that you wrote one of the most famous works of literature in the history of the world and have sold more books than almost anybody you know, catch 22? How do you feel that this dude’s house that we’re going to for this party, he made more money last month.
Neil: Then you’ll have in your entire life and Joseph Heller said, Oh, I’m fine with it cause I have something he’ll never have. And carbonic said, well what could that possibly be? And Joseph Heller said the knowledge that I have enough, we live in a culture of more today. We used to live in a culture of enough. In fact, I did re, I’m doing research right now on trust. It turns out our brains are actually naturally programmed to look for stopping mechanisms because historically we scrounged in the forest till we found enough berries and then we ate them and we were done. You know, like we used to read a newspaper until it was over then there was no more news till tomorrow. We used to watch a TV show. We mentioned Seinfeld till nine 30 on Thursday and then it was done for the week. Now we live in a culture of more Instagram scrolls endlessly.
Neil: Netflix plays another video automatically. Youtube keeps going. We eat all you can eat buffet or there’s no end to the food. Our brains actually in the new cycle never stops. Our brains are actually naturally programmed to look for enough. But we live in a world of more and we’re actually part of what is driving our low resilience right now and driving anxiety up, which by the way, spike 30% in the last five years is this feeling, this, this gross feeling that you can never kind of get there anymore. So what do we do about that? Like what? Like it’s, it’s, you know, like we’re particularly the problem. What’s the solution? Okay, number one is, and I can take you through a day. So in a day I’ll give you three tools. Number one is you got to wake up by strengthening your mind as opposed to looking at your cell phone.
Neil: So first thing is 99% of people sleep with their cellphone and they’re sitting in their bedroom that’s gotta stop. We gotta put the cell phones in the basement, get rid of them. They should not be there. They create low resilience through the bright images, lower melatonin production. They psychologically are hurting us because we’re comparing everyone else’s greatest hits with our director’s cuts and productivity wise, we’re not doing anything. 31% of our time right now is bookmarking, prioritizing and switching between tasks. So start your day with a two minute morning practice that strengthens your mind. Grab it cue card or since I have a video, this is the book I made for it called two-minute mornings. And every day I asked myself three prompts, very simple I will let go of, I am grateful for and I will focus on, I will let go of lets you articulate, crystallize and inject a little anxiety I am grateful for.
Neil: Helps do what we’re saying to do prime your brain for positivity for the day, which is a good strengthening tool because we naturally want to rubberneck and look at bad news all the time. And so the Meg de LA releasing fight or flight hormones all day inside our brains, too bad we can’t get rid of that. It’s what got us here, but we took over the planet. Awesome. But that’s still there thinking that everything’s going to kill us. And the third one is I will focus on carve a we’ll do list from your endless could do, should do avoiding decision fatigue. So how do you get rid of some of these problems I’m talking about how do you develop resilience? The number one thing you need to do, Peter, is start your day with a tube in the morning practice asking yourself on a piece of paper what you elect go up, what you are grateful for and what you will focus on and can you let go of something just by saying, I’m going to let go of this.
Neil: Turned out you can research and science magazine called don’t look back in anger by Brasin and a group of team, a group of colleagues shows that crystallizing and ejecting an anxiety actually reduces or eliminates your regrets as you age and increases your contentment. The example I like to use and I use this in you are awesome in the book is look at the Catholic confession chamber. People used to get down on their knees and I shouldn’t say used to so many still do and say, you know, bless me father I of sins, you can picture it from the mobster movies, right? Like I put big Tony and a under the deli, you know, and it turns out that confession is actually baked into many world religions including Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. The idea of confessing or saying something that you are trying to get rid of or admit to helps number.
Neil: We didn’t use to have therapy or more. Most of our 200,000 years of existence, unfortunately according to readers, no reader’s digest, national geographic get those two magazines confused. In my head, the fastest growing religion in the world is no religion. So we live in an age where we no longer have the venting framework. Therapy itself is quite unaffordable for a lot of people are simply not available if you’re in the public system. So I advocate writing down in anxiety and I write down serious stuff. I write down like I will let go of yelling at my three year old yesterday for not putting on the shoes fast enough. What a horrible thing for me to do. It’s a terrible dad move. I feel bad about it. I’m guilty of this. I feel like a terrible person. But when I write it down I just don’t think about it all day. I will let go of the five pounds I’ve gained over Thanksgiving. I will let go of comparing myself to Tim Ferris. You compare yourself to Tim Ferris? I used to, but then I wrote it down and it’s gone and it’s gone
Peter: And it’s just gone. So he comes out with something new and you know,
Neil: Well cause I see the guy and I just, I used him as he in the, in the sentence I just said he’s, he’s like a, he’s like a metaphor for the quote unquote person I’m currently comparing myself to. Right. And the name of who I write down, that might change. Right, right. But,
Peter: But it just reminds you that you’re not, you’re not in a race, neck to neck with some other person.
Neil: Look and have it be number one in the New York times best seller list for the next six months straight. Just by like baffled that I email my friends. I can’t do that. So I should stop comparing myself to that. Do you know what I’m saying? But do you then show up on the Bregman show and help us help the three of the, of the, of the 12 million people listening actually go out and buy a copy of your awesome. And I’ll be catching up to Tim Ferris, but they don’t think about that anymore. I let go of it. That’s the point,
Peter: Right? So this is a little bit what you, you don’t talk about this in this place of the book, but you talk about secret number two, which is shift the spotlight and you have this great research in it, which I was actually just talking with a friend of mine about yesterday. She brought it up to me and she was actually saying, you talk about this in terms of high achievers versus low achievers. She was really talking about the research that she saw in terms of women versus men, but that women tend to blame themselves when things go wrong, but credit circumstances when things go right. And I find I do that. Like when, when something goes wrong, I’m going to take ownership for it. Like I feel like I’ve done something wrong when it goes right, I kind of discount it a little bit. Like, well, you know, I knew those people and that was great. And, and, and and that’s not a very inspiring way to live in many ways. [inaudible]
Neil: We all have this tendency and it’s growing in society. Perfectionism is increasing over time. That’s one of the other studies I mentioned, the study that you’re mentioning, just to color it a little bit for people, this thing says that high achievers are more likely than low achievers to say, Oh, I got fired. That means I sucked at my job. That means I could not do the work. That means I am not a capable person. That means I’m not very employable. That means I might not have a job. That means I might be living on the streets. This is the mental pathway they go down. Whereas low performing people, as you say, maybe the system was that to get me or perhaps my boss had a head count reduction that shifted down from the top suite and she had no choice but to move from seven people to six people on the team.
Neil: And so she just like automatically got rid of the newest person. Like they’re more likely to see like the actual realistic side of things. Obviously the balance of somewhere in the middle. But for high achievers like you, Peter, how can you bake into it? And maybe it’s the way, I don’t know that women study, but I’m nodding because I’ve heard, I think I’ve heard something similar. How can you begin a little bit more like maybe it’s the system, not me. Cause part of what’s stressing us out right now in society is us. We’re stressing ourselves out. We’re driving a knife into our own stomachs. We’re telling ourselves stories about how terrible we are. And that’s the problem. So hard on herself.
Peter: So as a high achiever, when I think about that, I kind of know it intellectually. And then I think the part of why I’m a harder cheat, a high achiever is because I own everything and I don’t blame circumstances and I work really hard in order to make things happen. So on the one hand we’re saying we really have to like be enough and feel enough and on the other hand and, and, and what supports that is to say actually look at the systemic issues versus you know, your personal effort. And, and then on the other hand, I, I, I look at the source of my success in part, at least on how hard I work to make things happen, which, well, I don’t know if it would happen if I blame things on circumstances and just consider that I’m enough.
Neil: Yeah. That’s why they’re lower achievers. Look, I love talking to old people. It’s like one of my personal life fetishes. I, if I sit beside a 90 year old on the plane, I’m going to ask them two questions. I want to know what things, how things really work. And so I bumped into a guy in his late eighties the other day at a party. He was in a Walker, kind of two canes with Walker. He was a very elderly gentleman. And someone’s like, do you know who that is? That’s that billionaire developer that like kind of runs all the half the houses in this country. You know, he builds like neighborhoods. I was like, no, I didn’t know. And they’re like, he’s still working. He’s still like day to day, the CEO. So I go talk over to him and I’m like so how come you don’t retire? How come you don’t slow down?
Neil: He’s like, and he said like in his voice and then I’m, you know, I’m going to do my best. But he’s like, because the thing that got me here is something I can’t turn off. And I thought that was interesting and I talked to him more about that, that ambition straight. Cause I’m always trying to balance the, the thing between ambition and contentment personally. And his argument was that if someone is like you are a high achiever, well the thing that got over them over that first Hill on the rollercoaster is enough to like plow them around all the loops that they follow. However, I would like to sprinkle a little bit of salt on that and say, ah, I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. I think that people that have achieved a modicum of success in other word I don’t use, I probably use wrong, they can learn how to be more content.
Neil: I think the two minute morning practice helps at lunch time. I think they should be doing an unconventional, a weird hobby cause your learning curve is the steepest one. You know the least. I think that people should be doing things way outside of their comfort zone cause it builds resilience and actually helps you feel humble and simple. Again, take a sport you’ve never tried cooking cuisine you’ve never cooked. And then at nighttime I think it’s about deep unplugging. I think we all have nature deficit disorder and the di and we all talk about intermittent fasting. Like it’s some brand new thing. Oh, don’t eat after dinner. Don’t eat before breakfast. Whoa. You know, as if that’s some huge thing. And people like, Oh, you know, I finish dinner at four an hour and I don’t eat breakfast till 10. Like we’re stretching out the wrong thing. Instead of stretching out how little you eat food, we should be stretching at how little you use technology. When you use technology less for big periods of time, your brain Fritz is and fires and gets creative and little sparks fly off and actually you feel like a kid again, you feel like that version of yourself. That’s just like connecting with people. Maybe hugging and kissing your partner a little bit more, having dinner without cell phones there. Leaving loving voicemails for strangers.
Peter: So it’s interesting. So intermittent fasting, it could be like, just like an intermittent intermittent technology use. Like it’s not even the,
Neil: I’ve been going on this random at this Peter, somebody just emailed me something called the Palm box. Have you heard of it? P O M as in Mary, B O X Palm box. And it’s a beautiful like finished woodcarving box that you put yourself on. And when you get home from work and you’ve set the timer for like three hours or whatever you want
Peter: And it locks the box will not lock, it will just won’t unlock itself on the time we we built a little technology closet that, that in our apartment where you just were all, everyone, all the kids, everyone just puts all their technology. And the problem is everybody puts their technology in it like right before they go to sleep and they go back and they get it out of the closet right as they wake up. So they’re not looking at it at three in the morning. But you know, we’re not, you know, we probably do need a padlock or something.
Neil: I was speaking to a journalist yesterday for a newspaper called the Calgary Herald. And he told me, cause I did this, I said, sir, at the same thing about cell phone. And he said he leaves his cell phone not only beside his bed, but on. So any text that gets in, comes in the middle of the night, he hears it, wakes up and answers that and goes back to sleep.
Peter: God, that’s like a recipe for, you know, some kind of a neuro disease probably,
Neil: But we’re not. Yeah. But we’re all doing that during the day and thinking it’s okay.
Peter: Right. That’s great. You’re right. Yeah. So would you suggest literally just picking up your phone every couple of hours?
Neil: I suggest putting on your toughest heeled boot and jabbing it into that thing so it shatters into a million pieces. But if you can’t do that, then yeah.
Peter: But you use a cell phone. Yeah or no?
Neil: I do. And I also in chapter seven of you are awesome advocate, something called an untouchable day. Yeah. Which is, so tomorrow is an untouchable day for me. I am. We should talk like mid day. We can’t. Yeah. So an intensively, as defined in my book is a day where I am unreachable by anyone at all, all day, including my wife. And at first she was like, what are you talking about? You’re going to be like off the grid. I’m like, I’m off the grid. She’s like, why are you checking a lunch? But when I checked it at lunch, Peter, I get 37 weird, important sending emails and texts, but my, my rest of the day is shot untouchable to Israel where I wrote your awesome there where I do my podcast, three bucks there. How I get anything done. I recommend a full untethering from the matrix and one day a week let your mind wander.
Neil: Hopefully you can let your body wander too into nature and urban tapestry is great. I think there’s good, we’re going to see the rise of the urban Fluor again, which is somebody who is just walks around town all day. Do you work on your computer in your untouchable days? Yes. With one with one rule. Oh you want buy a little thing in the corner. Cannot ever go on, right? So if you’re doing research, so you can’t go online to do some researchers. I think you just have to keep doing whatever you’re doing. Exactly. And guess what happens? It’s fine. I just put like 10 asterisks in my writing thing, like insert research hair and I’ll find it later and then I can keep writing on a, on a normal day, I will write 500 words on an untouchable day. I can sometimes hit 5,000 words in one day.
Neil: Right? That’s like I, so I send out a biweekly article on Wednesdays. That’s like three articles. Like that’s like my next three are done in one day. Right. People are like, well, how do you have people say to me all the time, how do you get so much done? The number one way it gets much done is I have untouchable days. And for people listening, they’re like, Oh, that’s easy for you to say you’re a writer. The reason I’m a writer is because of the untouchable days. I don’t get to do in touch with this cause I’m a writer. It’s causal. It’s not, you know what I mean? [inaudible] Right, right, right. It’s causal in one direction, not the other direction. I think so. And, and I got this, I stole this idea from Dave [inaudible]? Who was my boss at Walmart? He was the CEO of Walmart Canada, then Walmart international.
Neil: And I would notice him and I ran about him and you are awesome a little bit and in the happening squad and he’s a big mentor for me. I was like, this guy’s got no cell phone. He doesn’t even have one. He doesn’t even like use email like no one if anyone emails him. And he’s the company CEO. So he has an email address. He never applied to anyone. And when you stopped doing that, no one writes the emails. So I was like how, how is he being the CEO but he doesn’t have any contact and he just wanders around, he’s wandering around the hallway talking to the executives, talking to the people. He’d go into the Walmart store three in the morning, like working over night shift. Then he’d come in the next day and say like, there’s a problem with your operations system. Cause he’d seen it firsthand and guess what? He was the best CEO in the [inaudible]. Like people adored him and he was very, very, very successful and he had no contact with anything.
Peter: It’s great. I’ve so, so loved this conversation. Full of interest, fun a story like it’s, it’s, there’s a lot of information and there’s, there’s an arc to it and there’s a story to it. So I really, you know, we’ve just touched on a couple of elements of it, but, but it’s a, it’s well worth the read. We’ve been speaking with Neil Pasricha. You are awesome. How to navigate change, wrestled with failure and live unintentional life. Neil, thank you so much for being on the Bregman leadership podcast. Thank you so much for having me on the Bregman leadership podcast. I am flattered to be invited and next time you have me I will put on a nice shirt you don’t need to. You you look good in a sweater. Yeah. Tech. I’ll tell you a very quick story, which is that, that I was working with a client and he had this big green sweatshirt on and he was pretty senior in a, in a company tech but, but not a tech guy himself, but his tech company.
Peter: And I was like, why do you dress like that? And he goes, you know, I, let me tell you why I dress like this is because I was, I, I noticed something about coders and when we were, when I was working in an organization or a level organization where there were some layoffs and I was worried about my job, I just looked around and they said, whose jobs are the most secure? And I started dressing like a coder and here’s what I would do. I would like put the wet shirt on. I’d put the hoodie over, I’d be texting while people were talking to me, you know, I would just be on my phone and they would ask me questions and I’d be listening cause I’m not really paying attention. So I would just say something smart. Now they think I could like, like I’m not even paying attention and I’m saying smart stuff. And they gave up trying to figure out what I would do because who the hell knows what someone in a hoodie does? Like we don’t know. We just like look at them. And we were like, Oh, they must be smart. And I realized my job security went way up and ever since then I’ve just been dressing and hoodies.
Neil: You’re helping me feel better about the fact that I’ve worn the same hoodie for the last four days.
Peter: Well, you know, that’s fine. You stick with it. I’ll tell you why I’d forget about it. You have untouchable days. That’s what makes you successful. Thanks Neil. Thanks so much for being on the show.